Detail-oriented people who enjoy working with numbers often pursue accounting careers. Accountants typically deal with the current financial activity of an individual or organization through meticulous record keeping and astute analysis of these numbers.
They also commonly perform actions such as preparing tax returns, inspecting account books for accuracy, ensuring compliance with government regulations, and looking for ways to reduce costs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the accounting field to grow 6% between 2018 and 2028. While not a booming occupation compared to some other jobs, demand should still be reasonably strong.
Individuals and businesses likely will continue turning to accountants for help with understanding and complying with changing (and sometimes confusing) tax laws. And public accountants in particular may experience favorable prospects because of more companies going public, which creates the need to hire experts well-versed in legally required financial documentation.
Training and Qualifications for Accounting
Education for an accounting career usually starts with an undergraduate degree in accounting or a related discipline. Seeking a master’s degree expands employment opportunities, especially for people desiring high-level positions.
Looking to increase marketability? Many jobs only consider applicants who are Certified Public Accountants. This certification greatly expands the types of tasks an accountant is legally allowed to perform. Though each state has its own requirements to become a CPA, the process generally includes 30 semester hours of education beyond a bachelor’s degree and passing a rigorous national exam.
Some people opt to obtain certification requirements to become an Enrolled Agent. EAs are licensed by the federal government and can represent their clients in IRS proceedings, such as audits and appeals.
People interested in accounting careers also should realize the importance of a clean record. Accountants deal with money and sensitive information. Access to these things demands honesty, trustworthiness, and dedication to acting in the best interest of the client being served. Expect prospective employers to conduct an extensive background check.
Skills Needed for Accounting Careers
While not necessarily requiring complex math skills, accounting careers involve comfort around numbers. Computation, analysis, comparison, and interpretation of figures are routine actions.
As they juggle a plethora of documents and demands, accountants need exceptional organizational skills. Mistakes can prove disastrous, so a detail-oriented nature proves useful.
Employers also seek candidates with solid communication skills. Listening carefully to others reduces errors and assists in drawing conclusions, and being able to convey information clearly both verbally and in written reports maximizes understanding among clients, managers, and colleagues.
Types of Accounting Jobs
Average salary per PayScale: $56,501
These professionals determine how much money an individual or company owes in taxes. They possess a thorough knowledge of government rules and regulations that influence this amount and must be committed to staying abreast of changes. Frequently, they provide advice on relevant issues such as minimizing penalties and reducing tax liability. Many are CPAs.
Average salary per PayScale: $66,311
Requiring expertise in both accounting and law, these public accountants investigate potentially criminal financial transactions, such as fraud and embezzlement. Common employers of forensic accountants include banks, insurance companies, police forces, and government agencies.
Average salary per PayScale: $55,886
Auditors prepare and examine financial records. They commonly get described as either internal or external auditors. Companies depend on their internal auditors to look for money mismanagement, waste, and fraud. Some internal auditors specialize in information technology and review their employer’s computer systems. External auditors are not employed by the organization they are auditing. They come in to check the accuracy of the business’s financial statements and report findings to investors and authorities.
Average salary per Salary.com: $195, 911
This leadership position involves overseeing an entire accounting department within an organization. In addition to supervising employees and their activities, controllers supply managers in other departments with relevant accounting information.
Average salary per Salary.com: $46,730
Companies hire people with accounting backgrounds to perform tasks related to money coming into the organization (accounts receivable) or money the business owes to others (accounts payable). Record keeping, resolving numerical discrepancies, and interacting with clients or creditors regarding payments are typical duties.
Common Accounting Work Environments
People in accounting careers generally work in an on-site or home office, though some travel to their clients’ locations. Accountants may work for the government, private firms, public companies, or be self-employed.
Likewise, plenty of variety exists in whom they serve—from a single large company with complex financial matters to many individuals just needing someone to prepare their annual tax return. During tax season or when budget reports are due, people in accounting careers generally put in long hours.
Professionals oftentimes land employment at a top 10 accounting firm. The Big 4 of these—Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG—employ thousands of people for their multitude of locations, and all have posted openings on FlexJobs at one time or another.
As you plan a path for an accounting career, the following groups can offer information, assistance, networking, and a sense of community.
This large, established group is particularly helpful for guidance on everything related to obtaining a CPA and its potential importance to your career. Its Young CPA Network may prove especially useful for newcomers to the field seeking mentorship.
This organization caters to entry- and mid-level professionals working at public accounting firms, and membership is free!
Education and peer connection are two of the main objectives of this group that’s been around since 1941.
Boosting Your Accounting Career
As you weigh various accounting career options, be sure to check out employment opportunities on FlexJobs. If you want to work remotely, find a freelance gig, work part-time, or have a flexible schedule, all of these roles can be found. We promise jobs that are fully vetted by our research team, so that you can focus on finding the flexible accounting job best-suited to your aspirations.
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